Little Bits of History

March 17

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 17, 2017

1337: Edward, the Black Prince, is made Duke of Cornwall. Edward was born in June 1330 at Woodstock Palace in Oxfordshire to King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. He was the first of nine children and the first to be made a Duke – in all of England. He was only two when he was made an Earl and nearly seven on this day when the first duchy was created for him. He became Prince of Wales shortly before turning 13. He served as symbolic regent three times while his father was away on campaigns. Edward married his cousin Jane when he was 31, which raised some eyebrows, not because they were cousins, but because Jane had been married secretly, then wed to another while her first husband was away at war. Her first husband returned, her second marriage was annulled, she had five children before becoming a widow, and then she married the future King of England.

Edward had four sons by various other women before he married Jane and the two had two more sons together. Their sons were born in France where Edward and Jane were the Prince and Princess of Aquitaine. While in Spain, fight to restore Don Pedro the Cruel to the Castilian throne, he contracted an illness which plagued him until his death ten years later. Since he predeceased his father, his son was next in line for the throne. His eldest son, Edward, had died at the age of five and Richard was next in line, a duty he assumed at the age of ten.

Today’s Duke of Cornwall is Prince Charles. The position is traditionally held by the eldest son of the reigning British monarch. It is one of the two remaining duchies in England, the other being the Ducky of Lancaster. The Duke inherits possession of the duchy and the title of Duke of Cornwall at birth, or when his parent assumes the throne. He is not, however, permitted to sell assets for personal benefit and also has limited rights and income when still a minor. If the King/Queen of England has no male children, the rights and responsibilities return to The Crown and there would be no current Duke.

The Duchy lands cover 135,000 acres, mostly in Devon with other holdings in Cornwall, Herefordshire, Somerset, and the Isles of Scilly. There is an associated investment portfolio which was valued at £763 million in 2013 and showed an annual profit of £19 million. The Duchy of Lancaster is the private estate of the British monarch so today, belongs to Queen Elizabeth II. This is a smaller holding of about 45,550 acres and along with a portfolio is worth about £472 million. The annual income is £16 million. The Prince and the Queen voluntarily pay income tax on earning, minus expenses, from their holdings.

Something as curious as the monarchy won’t survive unless you take account of people’s attitudes. After all, if people don’t want it, they won’t have it.

Do you seriously expect me to be the first Prince of Wales in history not to have a mistress?

Perhaps it has been too uncomfortable for those with vested interests to acknowledge, but we have spent the best part of the past century enthusiastically testing the world to utter destruction; not looking closely enough at the long-term impact our actions will have.

I sometimes wonder if two thirds of the globe is covered in red carpet. – all from Prince Charles

National Gallery of Art

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 17, 2015
West Building of the National Gallery of Art

West Building of the National Gallery of Art shortly after construction

March 17, 1941: The National Gallery of Art is officially accepted by Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of the American people. Pittsburgh banker Andrew W. Mellon was an art collector who began amassing a collection of old masters (paintings and sculpture) during World War I. By the 1920s, he decided to establish a new national gallery for the US using his collection to start. In 1930, he formed the A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust to be the legal owner of works intended for the new gallery. They soon made their first acquisition when they purchased 21 paintings from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

In 1929, Mellon first contacted Charles Greeley Abbot, the newly appointed Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Two years later, Abbot was appointed a Commissioner of the Institution’s National Gallery of Art. When the director of the Gallery retired, Mellon requested Abbot not be given the position as Mellon wanted Abbot to run the new organization he was forming. Mellon was charged with tax evasion because of his Trust and the Hermitage paintings and so his strategy needed to change. In 1935 Mellon announced in the Washington Star, he intended to establish a new gallery for the old masters, separate from the Smithsonian.

The project was in the hands of the Trust and was dependant on the “the attitude of the Government towards the gift”. In January of 1937, Mellon formally offered to create a new Gallery and on his birthday, March 24, 1937, Congress accepted the collection and the funds for construction of the Gallery. The Smithsonian gallery was renamed the National Collection of Fine Arts and the new building would become the National Gallery of Art. John Russell Pope (who also designed the Jefferson Memorial) was the architect for the new structure, accepted on this day. Neither Mellon nor Pope lived to see the building, as they both died in 1937.

Today, the National Gallery of Art is ranked second nationally and eighth globally and has over 4 million visitors a year. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is the other American museum with more visitors. The most visited art museum in the world is the Louvre in Paris. The State Hermitage Museum is ranked 15th. Earl A Powell III is the director of the National Gallery of Art located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The collection is comprised of paintings, drawing, prints, photographs, sculpture, medals, and decorative arts from the Middle Ages to the present. They have the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in the Americas there. As their collection grew, more space was needed and an East Building was designed by IM Pei as was the 6.1-acre Sculpture Garden.

‘Art’ is the same word as ‘artifice,’ that is to say, something deceitful. It must succeed in giving the impression of nature by false means. – Edgar Degas

Most painting in the European tradition was painting the mask. Modern art rejected all that. Our subject matter was the person behind the mask. – Robert Motherwell

I find relatively little relationship between the work of art and the immediate critical response it gets. – Edward Albee

To me there is no past or future in art. If a work of art does not live in the present, it must not be considered at all. – Pablo Picasso

Also on this day: Wearing of the Green – In 493 or 461, St. Patrick died.
Golda – In 1969, Golda Meir became the Prime Minister of Israel.
Rubber Bands – In 1845, rubber bands were first patented.
Air Force One – Not – In 1957, a plane crashed in the Philippines.
Not Very Utopian – In 1891, the SS Utopia sunk.

Not Very Utopian

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 17, 2014
SS Utopia sinking

SS Utopia sinking

March 17, 1891: The SS Utopia sinks. The transatlantic passenger steamship was built in 1874 in Glasgow, Scotland. She made her maiden voyage on May 23, 1874 and from that time until 1882 operated on Anchor Line. The ship made trips from Glasgow to New York City, Glasgow to Bombay, and from London to New York City. She and her sister ships were designed to carry 120 first class passengers, 60 second class, and 600 steerage or third class passengers. After completing twelve round trips between Glasgow and New York City, other routes were added to Utopia‘s list and she continued to successfully sail.

In 1882, she was transferred to the Mediterranean and began to regularly carry Italian immigrants to New York City. In 1890-1891 she was refitted and given a new triple expansion steam engine and the decks were redesigned. First class dropped to 45 passengers, second class was simply dropped, and there were now 900 steerage bunks. On February 25, 1891 Utopia set sail from Trieste to arrive in New York City. There were intermediate stops in Naples, Genoa, and Gibraltar scheduled. On board were 880 people – 815 third class passengers, three first class, three stowaways, and 59 crew members. The ship was captained by John McKeague.

On this day, the ship had reached Gibraltar and the captain pointed the ship to her usual anchorage in the inner harbor. As he got close enough to see better, he noticed the spot was already filled. Sitting at anchor was the HMS Anson. The British battleship had a searchlight on and the Captain claimed he was dazzled by the light and then was suddenly aware that the entire harbor was full of ships. McKeague claimed later that he thought the ship was farther away than it actually was as he hoped to steer around it. A “strong gale combined with current” swept the smaller steamship into the bow of the Anson and the ram of the battleship tore a hole 16 feet wide below the waterline in the Utopia.

McKeague hoped to beach the ship, but the engines were immediately powered down to keep them from exploding. There were not enough lifeboats but even if there had been, the ship’s hold filled with water quickly and the ship listed to 70 degrees, trapping many of the steerage passengers while crushing and sinking the lifeboats. Twenty minutes after impact, the ship sunk to a depth of 56 feet with nothing but the masts showing. Only 318 people survived and two more sailors who had come to help with the rescue were also killed. The captain survived and was found guilty of grave errors. There were lights placed on the above water masts, but even that didn’t prevent a second incident when another ship collided with the wreckage a few days later.

The average man’s judgment is so poor, he runs a risk every time he uses it. – Edgar Watson Howe

Judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.        – Simon Bolivar

Judgment is forced upon us by experience. – Samuel Johnson

An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgments simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore. – Edward De Bono

Also on this day: Wearing of the Green – In 493 or 461, St. Patrick died.
Golda – In 1969, Golda Meir became the Prime Minister of Israel.
Rubber Bands – In 1845, rubber bands were first patented.
Air Force One – Not – In 1957, a plane crashed in the Philippines.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 17, 2013
Golda Meir

Golda Meir

March 17, 1969: Golda Meir replaces Levi Eshkol, becoming the fourth Prime Minister of Israel. Meir was born in Kiev, Russian Empire in 1898. Her family moved to the US in 1906 and joined her father, Moshe Mabovitch, who had emigrated three years earlier. The family settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and little Golda went to the school located across the street from the Schlitz Brewing complex, now named for her. Her working class family pressured her to drop out of school and help earn money. Instead, she fled to her married sister’s house in Denver. There she was immersed in an intellectual environment. She continued her education, became a teacher, and married at age 19.

Golda and her husband, Morris, along with the Denver sister moved to Palestine in 1921 and joined a kibbutz. Golda’s duties included farming chores and kitchen work. However, her leadership abilities were duly noted and she was chosen to represent the kibbutz. She and Morris moved first to Tel Aviv and then to Jerusalem. As part of her duties with the Working Women’s Council, she left Morris and Jerusalem and lived in the US with her two children for two years. Golda and Morris grew apart, but never divorced. He died in 1951.

Ms Meir was one of the signatories for the Israel Declaration of Independence signed on May 14, 1948. She received the first passport issued by the new state of Israel and was in the US trying to raise funds when the new nation was attacked by the surrounding countries in the Israel War of Independence. She held other political positions before being elected as Prime Minister.

She was Israel’s first female Prime Minister and the third woman in the world serving in that capacity. She was called the “Iron Lady” long before Margaret Thatcher took the title. David Ben-Gurion was known to call her “the only man in the Cabinet.” She was instrumental in avenging the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics held in Munich, Germany. She stayed Israel’s hand from a preemptive strike during the Yom Kippur War. Backlash and in-fighting after the war led to Meir’s resignation. She died of cancer in 1978 at the age of 80.

“The Arabs will stop fighting us when they love their children more than they hate Jews.”

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

“One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.”

“Whether women are better than men I cannot say – but I can say they are certainly no worse.”

“Don’t be so humble, you’re not that great.” – all from Golda Meir

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Levi Eshkol was also born in the Russian Empire but in the Kiev Governorate. He was born three years before Golda and  he came from a Hasidic background. He left for Palestine in 1914 and served with the Jewish Legion during World War I. He also joined a kibbutz after the war. He was elected to the Knesset in 1951 and was designated as Prime Minister by David Ben-Gurion upon his resignation of the post. Even though once friends, the two men had a parting of the ways over ideological concerns. Eshkol served as the Prime Minister from 1963 until he died of a heart attack in 1969 at the age of 73. Yigal Allon became acting Prime Minister until Golda Meir took over the post.

Also on this day: Wearing of the Green – In 493 or 461, St. Patrick died.
Rubber Bands – In 1845, rubber bands were first patented.
Air Force One – Not – In 1957, a plane crashed in the Philippines.

Air Force One – Not

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 17, 2012

Ramon Magsaysay

March 17, 1957: A plane leaving from Cebu, Philippines disappears before reaching Manila. The Douglas C-47 plane was a two-engine, newly refurbished aircraft operated by the Philippine Air Force. It had recently been purchased and had less than 100 hours of flight registered. Five Air Force officers crewed the plane piloted by Major Florencio Pobre. It was the official plane of the seventh Philippine President, Ramon Magsaysay. It was called Mt. Pinatubo after the then-still inactive volcanic mountain of Magsaysay’s home province of Zambales.

President Magsaysay was very popular and was fairly certain of winning the upcoming elections in November. He arrived at Cebu City and on March 16 gave several speeches. His day was filled with four different speaking engagements and then a party at the home of Cebu City mayor, Sergio Osmeña, Jr. Magsaysay finally got to Lahug Airport and boarded the presidential plane shortly before midnight with the mayor’s father and former Philippine President ( the fourth), Sergio Osmeña seeing Magsaysay safely off.

The plane took off at 1 AM and headed toward Manila, about 400 miles away. The weather was clear. People on the ground later said the plane did not seem to have enough altitude as it approached the Balamban mountain range. At 1:17 AM the plane radioed the Malacañang Palace, home of the President, informing them of a 3:15 AM estimated time of arrival. No one ever heard from them again. When the plane failed to arrive, a massive land and sea hunt was instituted. Much of the flight plan was over open waters.

By mid-afternoon, locals were reporting a loud crash and subsequent fire in the mountains of Balamban, Cebu. There was only one survivor of the 1:40 AM crash, Néstor Mata. The reporter from the Philippine Herald was badly burned and it took 18 hours to transport him down the mountain, and another six months to recover from his burns. He is still alive. The President, many other government officials, and journalists perished in the crash. There was some speculation of sabotage since Magsaysay led the fight against the communist Hukbalahap movement. The crash was due to metal fatigue. As the plane tried to gain altitude, the shaft of the right engine carburetor snapped and caused a loss of power.

I believe that government starts at the bottom and moves upward, for government exists for the welfare of the masses of the nation.

I believe that a high and unwavering sense of morality should pervade all spheres of governmental activity.

I believe in the majesty of constitutional and legal processes, in the inviolability of human rights.

I believe that the free world is collectively strong, and that there is neither need or reason to compromise the dignity of man. – all from Ramon Magsaysay

Also on this day:

Wearing of the Green – In 493 or 461, St. Patrick died.
Golda – In 1969, Golda Meir became the Prime Minister of Israel.
Rubber Bands – In 1845, rubber bands were first patented.

Rubber Bands

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 17, 2011

Rubber bands

March 17, 1845: Stephen Perry of London patents the first rubber band. In other parts of the English speaking world, these handy items are also called binders, elastics, elastic bands, lackey bands, laggy bands, lacka bands, or gumbands. They are today made of either rubber or latex. The trees where the sap is harvested are native to India. Natural rubber has been used commercially since first seen in France in 1736. The product arrived in England in 1770. Joseph Priestly noticed the substance was useful in eradicating pencil marks – the first eraser which was called a rubber.

Today, rubber can be natural or synthetic. In 2005, there were nearly 21 million tons of rubber produced worldwide. Of that, 42% or 8.8 million tons, was natural. The rest is made from a derivative of petroleum. Asia is the world’s main source of natural rubber, accounting for 95% of the natural market. Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia produce about 72% of the world’s natural rubber. It takes a rubber tree about seven years to mature and produce the rubber latex sap. They remain productive for about 25 years.

Natural rubber is more elastic than synthetic rubber and so most rubber bands are made of the natural substance. The rubber is extruded into long tubes to provide the general shape. The tubes are then placed on mandrels, a post-type object used to shape machined work. Next it is cured with heat and then sliced across the width of the tube into little bands. Rubber bands are rated by three dimensions. They are measured for length, width, and thickness. The length is half the circumference, thickness is the distance from the inner to the outer circle. Width is the measure across the surface of the face of the band.

Rubber bands have size numbers. These range from 10-117. The length is from 1.25 to 7 inches while the width measures from 1/16 to 1/4 inch. The thickness remains constant at 1/32 of an inch. Some producers further differentiate by adding letters to signify difference in width. Rubber bands are affected by temperature. Heating causes the band to contract while cooling causes expansion. In the UK, red rubber bands were introduced for the Royal Mail. It was hoped that the more visible bands wouldn’t be discarded as litter. The Royal Mail uses about 342 million red bands every year.

“He’s a million rubber bands in his resilience.” – Alan K. Simpson

“Money changes all the iron rules into rubber bands.” –  Ryszard Kapuscinski

“The rubber band was stretched tight and this thing was set up like a slingshot. It doesn’t surprise me it snapped back. It surprises me it went down in a straight line for so long.” – Jeff Saut

“You have to remember these people were stretching the rubber band about as far it would go for five years.” – Roy Smith

Also on this day:
Wearing of the Green – In 493 or 461, St. Patrick died.
Golda Meir – In 1969, Meir became the fourth Prime Minister of Israel.

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Wearing of the Green

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 17, 2010

St. Patrick

March 17, 493 or 461: St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland along with St. Brigid and St. Columba, is believed to have died on this date with the year under strenuous debate. More recent findings lean toward the later date. Legend also has it that Patrick arrived in Ireland as a slave on this date back in 432 as well.

We do know that he was born along the west coast of Great Britain or maybe France. He was captured [according to his autobiography] and along with thousands of others taken and sold as slaves in Ireland. He was not religious prior to his capture but his years of captivity strengthened his faith. He had been purchased by a Druidic high priest and so Patrick learned both the native Celtic language and the Druid customs.

He escaped at the age of 22 with the help of an angel. He went to Auverre, France and lived in a monastery for twelve years taking the name Patrick, or in Old Irish spelled Pádraig. He then went back to Ireland. He was not the first Christian in Ireland, being preceded by both Secundus and Palladius but he was the most influential.

He stated that he lived in daily fear of a violent death or re-enslavement. Legend has it that he banished snakes from Ireland, but post-glacial Ireland did not have snakes. It is possibly a metaphorical allusion to the snakes of druidic use. He also is said to have used the shamrock as an allegory for the Trinity. In 1753, this date became the official St. Patrick’s Day.

“St. Patrick… one of the few saints whose feast day presents the opportunity to get determinedly whacked and make a fool of oneself all under the guise of acting Irish.” – Charles M. Madigan

“St. Patrick’s Day is an enchanted time – a day to begin transforming winter’s dreams into summer’s magic.” – Attributed to Adrienne Cook

“May St. Patrick guard you wherever you go, and guide you in whatever you do and may his loving protection be a blessing to you always.” – Irish blessing

“Before I was humiliated I was like a stone that lies in deep mud, and he who is mighty came and in his compassion raised me up and exalted me very high and placed me on the top of the wall.” – Saint Patrick

Also on this day, in 1969 Golda Meir became the fourth Prime Minister of Israel.

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